Updated: July 8, 2011 3:28PM
Dear Fixer: Last November, I upgraded my cell phone to a nice Android touch-screen phone. I started noticing problems shortly thereafter and brought it into the T-Mobile store on three different occasions to try to resolve the issue.
Finally, the customer service rep told me he ordered me a new phone and that it would be delivered to my house. He told me that T-Mobile had included a return shipping label for me to use when returning my faulty phone.
After I received my new phone, I dropped off the old one at the UPS drop box as I was instructed.
Recently, I received a text message from T-Mobile thanking me for my EasyPay payment of $606. When I called them, they said they had charged me a $459 restocking fee plus my monthly service charge. They said they had never received my old phone.
Here are my questions: First, why would they not have the tracking number, since they set up the shipping? Why did I never receive a phone call, text message or email warning me that they never received the phone? Why do they not have insurance on the shipping?
Why am I being billed $459 for a phone that was clearly faulty? The records show that I visited multiple store locations asking for assistance with the phone.
I paid somewhere around $200 for the original, brand-new phone with a two-year extended contract. Now I have to pay an additional $459 for the broken one they say they never received. Basically, I’ve paid close to $700 for a phone that still does not work properly and they have me locked in an extended contract.
I thought I would try and contact you, seeing as you seem to have such empathy for those of us stuck in red tape. I just can’t stomach having to cough up this amount of money for something that could have been avoided had T-Mobile had a better process in place — especially for situations in which the customer was sold a lemon!
Amy Bannerman, Chicago
Dear Amy: The really strange thing about this saga was first they told you they didn’t get the phone, but later they said they got the phone but got it late. Which still didn’t make sense, since you were told it was due March 25 and you remember mailing it in late February or at the latest, the first week in March.
Rather than climb into that mess, we decided to bypass customer service and go right to T-Mobile corporate p.r. honcho Michelle Taylerson. She was able to find someone to look into this, and within a few days T-Mobile agreed that you had done nothing wrong and shouldn’t have to pay the restocking fee. You’ll be getting a check for $507, which includes the restocking fee plus related charges.
Getting things fixed
After we fixed Amy’s phone problem, she had a question for us.
How did we do it?
Well, we had it easy. We have a very public forum here, so when we contact a company’s public relations apparatus, as we did in her case, they tend to fix things pretty quickly.
If you’re trying to fix something on your own, it’s important to stay organized, remain civil and give the company a clear path to a resolution.
Other than that, it helps to be creative.
One reader, Jo, told us that when she had a problem with her cable bill, she went on Twitter and contacted the person in charge of the company’s Twitter feed. (That’s usually someone in corporate communications.) That person escalated her complaint and the bill was quickly corrected.
Another guy, Jon, said that when an online florist forgot to deliver the Mother’s Day flowers he’d ordered for his wife — and their customer service department was inept — he turned to Facebook.
He “friended” the company, then proceeded to copy his problem onto every discussion taking place on its Facebook wall (meaning everyone involved in all those discussions instantly saw his plea). Right away, the company sent out some flowers – and they refunded all of Jon’s money.
If you’ve discovered a tactic to help you get things fixed, we’d love to hear about it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story — thanks!